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The city of Abu Simbel

Abu Simbel is a charming and quiet town, inhabited by mystery and magic, you move in the streets, you feel that its people from another planet, you speak to them you feel they're normal people and genius at one time, you will be silent when they tell you their legends on Ramses and Nefertari and their old villages which are being part of a utopia, but the city ​​streets and its people is part of the history of Abu Simbel, Ramses and Nefertari, and you will read this history on the walls and on their faces, you will see in the sunlight that fell on their faces and reflected on the walls of temple to tell the myth of the city.

The city of Abu Simbel, locates 280 kilometers from Aswan, and forty kilometers north of the Egyptian- Sudanese borders and this city took its importance due to the presence of two temples, which were built by King Ramses II in the thirteenth century BC.

The name of Abu Simbel is a modern name for an ancient city that named in ancient times as Ibshek and no one knows it's meaning yet and if it is the name of a specific region of the place or calling all over the place.  Even the modern name Abu Simbel has nothing to do in the region, which includes temples, because it is in fact part of the village of Ballana.  However, Ballana is located on the West Bank of the Nile and extend from the temples to Faras and Arigin near the Egyptian-Sudanese borders. There is a proposal that Abu Simbel evolved from the name of the great temple Mount "Ibsmpel", a designation launched by the people on the mountain.

The city of Abu Simbel was part of a region inhabited by tribes called the ancient Egyptians as the "Iam", which lived between the Toshka north and Buhen south.  In old kingdom period, exploration missions sent by the Egyptians crossed the region, to discover Africa and headed by the rulers of the first province in Aswan.

In ancient times this area includes two mountains with the sanctity of the people of the area, and linked to the Big Mountain linked to the local god Horus of Meha and the small mountain linked to the local goddess Hathor of Ibshek. The people of this region came in order to sanctify the souls of local gods Hathor and Horus, whose spirits live in the mountains. The people called the southern mountain "Mount of Horus of Meha" and the northern Mountain as "Mountain of Hathor of Ibshek" or " the purify mountain".

In the thirteenth century BC, King Ramses II took advantage of sanctity of the mountains and carved a temple for himself in the southern mountain and a temple to his wife in the Northern Mountain.  In 19 years the two temples were finished after the ancient artists put the details of the battle of Kadesh. However, at the opening ceremony, Ramses with his daughter attended the ceremony without Nefertari who was ill and stayed in her boat front of the temples. Seven years after the ceremony, an earthquake hit the great temple and did some damages on the façade and the Osiride hall. Later, some modification had carried out on the scenes and the two Marriage stela and Ptah stela were added.

Seti II and Queen Taweseret (in 19th dynasty) added stelae to the great temple and it seems that both temples were shut after the worship neglected and both of them buried under the sand.  

A military campaign sent by King Pesmatik II to Nubia in 593 BC, however, its soldiers left a text on the left leg of the statue of King Ramses II to the left of the main doorway to the Great temple.

In the fifth and sixth centuries AD, a Nubian culture had evolved in this region and named Ballana culture, and its capital was Gebel Adda in the eastern side of the Nile, revealing the remains of this culture were discovered in the villages of Ballana and Qustul.

In modern times, the Swiss orientalist Ludwig Burckhardt is the first who visited the temple after ancient times and that was on March 22, 1813. However, the great temple was buried under the sand except the heads of the statues.

In 1816 the French Consul Dorovitti visited the small temple and he also watched the heads of statues of Ramses at the front of the great temple.

Giovanni Battista Belzoni visited Abu Simbel twice, and the first visit was on September 16, 1816 and was accompanied by his wife Sarah. The second visit was in June 1817 and was accompanied by two officers in the English Navy and secretary of the British consul Henry Salt and Belzoni could clean sand on the facade and made a hole in the sand to enter the great temple.  He explored inside and reached the sanctuary of great temple on the first of August in 1817 and he left Graffiti on the right wall of the sanctuary.

In late December 1828 and until mid-January 1829 Jean-Francois Champollion, along with Ippolito Rossellini copied the scenes of two temples.  It is known that the cartouche of King Ramses II, located in front of the base of the statue of Ramses II to the right side of the temple is the one which helped him in deciphering the Rosetta stone.

On November 9 in 1838 visited the Scottish artist David Roberts visited the temples and draw some impressive drawings for the great temple and statues of sanctuary. In December 1843 the Richard Lepsius and a group of artists succeeded in copying the reliefs of temples in nine days under high temperature.

During three decades, the temples were focus of attention of famous visitors such as artist Paul Doran and writer Gustav Robert and his friend Maxime Ducamp, but the most famous person who visited the two temples is the English Amelia Edwards.  She published this visit in her famous book "thousand miles on the Nile" in 1877. Also it is known that she is the first one who visited the chapel of GodThoth at South of the great temple and she drew attention to the phenomenon ofthe sun and its relation to the great temple.

Information for the visitor of Abu Simbel

Tickets fees for Abu Simbel temples
Adult    :                115.00 LE
Student:                63.50 LE

Opening hours of the temples
From: 5.00 AM
To      : 17.00 PM
(After these official hours of the visit, you had to take permission from the minster of state for antiquities)

Photos or video inside the two temples
·        It is not allowed to take any photo inside the temples if you did not have permission from minister of state for antiquities.

·        And if you had this permission you have to contact the Egyptologists because one of the conditions is that the Egyptologist had to accompany you during your shooting or taking the photographs

Regulations of the free permission
Anyone had a free permission to visit the two temples; he had to bring a copy of that permission with him till the officials keep it in the official records.

Visiting the Napta playa and Chefren quarries
·        You need permission from ministry of state for antiquities
·        You need permission from military intelligence
·        Then you had to contact either the Aswan antiquities office or Abu Simbel antiquities office 


The stela of Ptah

In the great temple, Between the left third and left fourth pillars in the Osiride hall, there is a stela that was added to the temple in 34 or 35 of the reign of Ramses II and it is dedicated to god Ptah-Tatenen. The stela is divided into two sections, the upper section has a scene of Ramses II as he holds the heads of three prisoners in front of the god Ptah-Tatenen, who holds another six prisoners and guide them to the King. The lower section contains a text of historical importance. This text sheds lights on the sacred birth of Ramses II, the reason of building this temple in Nubia and the king also mentioned in this stela the story of the visit of the Hittite King with son to Egypt, and the information contained in the texts of the stela gave it the historical importance.


Earthquake at Abu Simbel

In the facade of the great temple , there is one colossal statue of Ramses II named “Governor of the two lands “  However, this statue was broken in an earthquake which destroyed parts of the great temple after seven years of its opening ceremony. It seems that this earthquake did not affect the small temple.

  1. The affected areas of the great temple included:
  2. The colossal statue of Ramses and Its upper part was fallen on the ground and was crashed into three parts.
  3. The right arm of the right colossal at right of the entrance, was separated from the rest of the body.
  4. The right lintel of the entrance was damaged effectively.
  5. The last left two pillars of the Osiride pillar hall were cracked.
King Ramses had ordered Passer, the viceroy of Nubia to repair what the earthquake did in these parts. Passer supported the right arm ( no. 3) with stone blocks upon which he inscribed the names and titles of the king. He also rebuilt the lintel of the main entrance (no. 4).

As for the two pillars, he supported them with building a mid-brick wall behind them however this wall is not there now. Passer could not do anything for the fallen parts of the colossal statue of the facade , so he left these fallen parts in its situ.